Live Reviews : Black Sabbath, Shihad @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 29/4/2013
There are few bands in history who could claim to have had a greater influence over the development of heavy metal than Black Sabbath. The eight albums that the original lineup of vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward released from 1970 to 78 set the stage for everything that has come since.
Not having toured Australia with Osbourne at their helm in 40 years, the announcement of this tour presented a once in a generation opportunity, even with the absence of Ward on drums due to a contractual dispute.
Playing two shows in Melbourne’s Rod Laver arena, the first show was not quite a sell out, although it was pleasing to see the diverse crowd that turned up, with few in the audience as old as the band they were there to witness.
Shihad were a good choice of support. Although their musical brand might not be quite as heavy as the main act, few in the crowd were crusty old metal puritans, and their expansive rock sound received an appreciative response.
Then it was time for the main event. Things looked promising as the band started right on time, with sirens blaring and cracking straight into War Pigs. The energy in the crowd was amazing, and they were moshing and cheering their way through the song.
The band sounded amazing, which is to be expected from most of the band, however I couldn’t have been the only one worried about how Ozzy would sound, especially given reports of his recent ‘troubles’. Thankfully, his voice sounded great, and despite moving around like an old granny, was fully of energy.
The band maintained a high tempo through Into the Void, Under the Sun and Snowblind.
And then the wheels temporarily came off. Electric Funeral started up, and Ozzy seemed to struggle to either remember the words or had run out of steam. It didn’t take long for most of the crowd to notice and the energy seemed to vanish from the room.
Amazingly though, when they kicked into Black Sabbath, Ozzy found his footing again and the crowd found their energy just as quickly. NIB followed soon after as one of the highlights of the night.
The interaction between the band was pretty minimal, and at times you had to wonder how much they wanted to be out there. Ozzy, despite sounding amazing, seemed to be lost between songs, and if there was too much of a pause between songs was quick to revert to screaming ‘I can’t hear you’. This seemed to do the job, but by the end of the gig, having yelled it out at least a dozen times, everyone seemed more obliging than genuinely enthused. Then again, the rest of the band made no attempt either, so you can’t completely blame Ozzy.
The one exception to the enthusiasm deficit was touring drummer Tommy Clufetos. He was full of energy throughout, and his drum solo towards the end of the gig which went for a few minutes was one of the highlights of the night.
Iron Man followed, and the wailing guitars brought the crowd to an even higher level of energy. The new single from their upcoming album God is Dead? was a pleasing diversion, and their earlier premiere of Methademic also sounds promising.
Dirty Women and Children of the Grave rounded out the set, and the crowd cheered them off the stage, before Ozzy had to chant from the back of stage to get the crowd fired up one more time for the encore.
Coming back out with the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath intro, they finished the night off with Paranoid, which as with most songs on the night, benefitted from the fuller sound of the live environment (and modern technology).
The band bowed out with the crowd satisfied, knowing that they had been lucky to see one of history’s great bands, if not in their prime, at least on a very good night.
Review by Matthew Dworak